First Published 200:

I arrived at the state theatre on Thursday in a taxi. My work colleague and I were a couple of the few full time workers who were able to skip out of work for 3 hours to indulge in the Sydney Film Festival screening of a new documentary on the Sydney Theatre Company’s New York Production of Andrew Upton’s Hedda Gabbler.

Ticket in hand and without snacks I found my seat next to a delicately elderly woman who enjoyed telling me that I didn’t need to worry about the seat allocations. (I am so theatre sometimes I cringe at myself : this film-going octogenarian was so much cooler than I am! I am a complete dag!) And I nestled in after a brief chat to a very lovely director I am working with at the moment and dodging a few actors of yester-year I have known.

Under the sleepy cover of darkness I waited and watched as the film unfolded. I know you all heard how it went. It was a complete and utter fantasy.

Cate Blanchett described about the “dangerous” nature of theatre. How it is visceral and real and immediate. Of course throughout the medium of film this means a whole lot of nothing, just as a celebrity TV chef telling us how wonderful the meal they are preparing smells, nearly feels like a lie. The medium of film did nothing for the theatrical nature of the piece.

I have not known theatre to be so sanitized. I think there was a smattering of expletives… all courtesy of Hugo Weaving… but it was a friendly and sweet and non swearing rehearsal from what I could tell.. and the most interesting and most stressful situation in the whole thing was actually Robin Nevin trying to use the subway ticket machine: a real human moment for someone as formidable as she!

I don’t think it was about actors.. or rehearsal or theatre. Its seemed more of a corporate video for the STC. It should have been called “In the company of a very well resourced theatre Company” or “You want it , you got it” because that’s what it seemed like… “oh dear, you need a higher set coz it will look silly in the New York space? We’ll build it for you, Robin Nevin! No worries! And I’ll get paid and have all the materials I need and a crew to help!” and “Oh,.. you need to be dressed for a scene change do you Ms Blanchett? You got it! Happy to help!” or  “Need your name on a coffee mug so you don’t drink out of someone else’s by mistake, Mr Weaving? You got it!” How I laugh at this notion!

How I cringe at Ms Nevin as she explains to the documentary makers how theatre literate the New Yorker Theatre goers are…  and I think.. If they are so literate.. why didn’t you take  a classic Aussie play to them? Ham Funeral? Coralie Landsdowne Says No? Even  the great Aussie spectacle Robbery Under Arms? Why Ibsen? Why previously ‘The White Devil?”

No. Sorry. I don’t buy it. Sorry, this isn’t theatre at its most dangerous! It’s theatre at its most comfortable and bourgeois and most predictable! I wonder what it would be like for Ms Nevin now… to work in under resourced and ill-equiped Sydney or Melbourne independent cutting edge theatre spaces. I would watch TV if there was a reality TV show or documentary on that! I would PAY to see that!!!!!! But perhaps as a young woman she was seen with a hammer in hand.. a paint brush smearing the last scrapings of the paint that has to cover the wall before we leave at 2am tonight.. perhaps she was up a ladder helping the crew , back before she was the queen of Australian Theatre? Gee I’d love to see that though… wouldn’t you?

Actors are brave and vulnerable and wild and manic and funny and strange and suspicious. Also they break. They snap, they demand they cry and yell. This title gives no insight into actors. Or what it’s like. Or who they are. Or what being amongst them is like. It just feels like a poorly produced movie with no plot and doesn’t show theatre as it is… but a Stepford Wives version: that feels like Low calorie sweetener on my tongue.